Pierre Martin Sancerre Rouge 2017
The first stunning view of Sancerre comes after driving across the Sologne, from the west, the Touraine in your rearview mirror. The trip seems interminably long, a verdant countryside with fields of cereal grains as far the eye can see. Sancerre's steep vineyards ultimately come into view after rounding a bend in the road, spread out below, with vines crouching low to the ground, as if your arrival was startlingly unexpected.
One must stop their car, take in the these magnificent vineyards, perfectly lined, with their small nuggets of chalk and limestone blanketing the ground, as if there had a been a snow. The old village of Sancerre stands in the distance to the east, like a sentinel, watching over its land. You get the immediate sense you're in an important wine place.
Sancerre is one of three winegrowing areas in France that are a "golden triangle" for wines--or more appropriately, "a thin white line." From the vineyards of Sancerre stretching north toward Auxerre and finally ending in Epernay, there is a typical geography that connects the three--the famous kimmeridgian soils, a chalky marl that is capped by Portlandien limestone. From space, one could almost visualize an island chain of great wine villages, connected on the surface by these ancient white stones. At the table, its easier to imagine a fine Champagne, a cru Chablis, and a lush Sancerre, framing the forthcoming meal.
There are 350 independent wineries in Sancerre, 25 grower/negociants, and only 1 cooperative. Over 7000 acres are planted to vines (nearly 80% of the entire surface area) of which 3/4 are planted to Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation has been fully exploited for years by wine lovers and connoisseurs. Finding something new is virtually impossible. Getting a return email is a challenge.
But earlier in the year we called on an energetic young vigneron named Pierre Martin. And he dealt us into the game.
Pierre assumed responsibility for his father's domaine about 10 years ago. His vineyards surrounding the village of Chavignol are among the best of the region. Everybody knows it. His parcels in Culs de Beaujeu and Mont Damnés are small, but the envy of other wineries nearby.
For my money there are only a half dozen producers in all of Sancerre worthy of making a red wine, Pierre is one of those guys. His mere 1ha of Pinot Noir, planted on calcerous soils is one of the reference points of the appellation. It is fermented entirely in stainless steel and then aged for one year in neutral barrels. This 2017 hits on all cylinders with loads of ripness, sweet fruit, and richness. Lots of neighboring Burgundians would raise their eyebrows in surprise!